World Rugby has declared this year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand should be postponed to 2022, dealing a major blow to the women's game.
Citing "uncertain and challenging" conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, World Rugby said it would not be possible to suitably stage an event of such scale.
Its recommendation will be put to the Rugby World Cup board and World Rugby's executive committee on March 8 and 9 but seems certain to be passed.
In a statement, the governing body said: "World Rugby has made the difficult decision to recommend the postponement of Rugby World Cup 2021, scheduled to be hosted in New Zealand from September 18 to October 16, until next year.
"While appreciating the recommendation is extremely disappointing for teams and fans, it has their interests at heart, and gives the tournament the best opportunity to be all it can be for them, all New Zealanders and the global rugby family."
Whilst the date might change, the goal remains the same. https://t.co/oFTyjtMuo4— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) March 2, 2021
It is clear World Rugby has made the recommendation to stave off the possibility of the tournament going ahead in difficult, sterile conditions.
New Zealand as a nation has achieved low instances of COVID-19, in a large part because of strict border controls.
World Rugby said: "It has become clear in recent discussions with key partners including New Zealand Rugby, the New Zealand government and participating unions, that, given the scale of the event and the COVID-19-related uncertainties, it is just not possible to deliver the environment for all teams to be the best that they can be on the sport’s greatest stage.
"The challenges include uncertainty and the ability for teams to prepare adequately for a Rugby World Cup tournament both before and on arrival in New Zealand, and challenging global travel restrictions."
Ireland hosted the last Rugby World Cup for women in 2017, with New Zealand beating England in the final, giving the Black Ferns a fifth victory in the last six editions of the tournament.